DCA Fire Experts Offer Cooking Safety Tips for the
Thanksgiving Holiday

Growing Popularity of Turkey Frying Exposes Families to
Greater Risk of Cooking Fires


TRENTON, NJ – Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved holidays of the year, and calls for food and festivities in abundance. And while the holiday is meant to be joyous, it can also be a time for more accidents to occur, especially because of fire-related risks. In fact, experts report that more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day in the calendar year.

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs' (DCA) Division of Fire Safety has several tips to ensure a successful and safe holiday dinner. With more people using canister fryers to prepare their Thanksgiving turkey, DCA fire experts have tips to ensure proper frying methods and avoid catastrophes that pose some of the greatest risks for fire and injury during the holiday.

"Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness and celebration, but the excitement and commotion that come with the holiday also create distractions that can lead to accidents and injuries," said DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa. "As more families are attempting new methods – such as frying their turkeys – to prepare their standard Thanksgiving fare, we urge them to be aware of the fire risks and practice heightened caution while organizing their holiday dinner."

Given the risks associated with holiday cooking, the Division of Fire Safety offers safety tips to minimize accidents, especially for people who opt to use a fryer instead of an oven this year. For example, turkey fryers should always be at a safe distance from any structure on your property or any materials that can burn. They should never be used in an open garage or on a wooden deck or patio. Make absolutely certain that the fryer is on a firm and level surface, ideally on a special concrete pad or brickwork.

"It's also a good idea to stay near a fryer while the turkey is cooking," said Division of Fire Safety Acting Director William Kramer. "A fryer always has the potential to catch fire if it is not monitored properly."

Other tips to reduce fryer accidents and maintain general cooking safety in the home this Thanksgiving include:

  • Keep an all-purpose consumer fire extinguisher nearby while cooking. Never use water to put out a grease fire.
  • Install a fire detector in or near the kitchen and make sure it is in good working condition.
  • In the kitchen, keep anything that is capable of catching fire away from cooking surfaces, such as cloth pot holders, oven mitts, wooden spoons and spatulas, food packaging, hand towels, etc. that can fall onto burners and ignite. Kitchen curtains should be tied back.
  • When using a fryer outside, children or pets should be banned from the fryer area while it is in use and even after cooking is completed. Turkey fryers remain hot long after use. 

  • Wear heavy-duty oven mitts that are well insulated when touching handles or ladles. Use safety glasses or goggles just in case of oil splatter from the fryer.

  • If a turkey is to be marinated, be sure it is completely thawed, the marinade is fully absorbed, and the turkey is free of drips before frying. Water and cooking oil do not mix and the right combination can cause a spill over or, even worse, an explosion.

  • Wear clothing that is suitable for cooking. Do not wear sleeveless shirts, clothing with loose sleeves or adornment that can catch on fire. Loose clothing dangling over an open burner flame can ignite. Additionally, polyester clothing may melt and cause a serious burn.
  • Limit alcohol consumption until after the meal is prepared and served. To cook safely you must be alert.
  • Most importantly, if you have begun to cook a holiday meal, you cannot leave your home. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fire. Stay put!

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs.

For more information about the Division of Fire Safety, log on to www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dfs/ on the DCA website, or call (609) 633-6106. For more detailed information on holiday cooking safety hints, visit www.holidaysafety.org on the web.